Anderson Cooper shrugs off his “respectable journalist” guise in favor of a more tawdry persona

Anderson Cooper’s talk show Anderson has given him an entry to a new club: the trashy talk show host. He gets to join other illustrious members like Montel, Jenny Jones, Riki Lake, Maury, and the grand daddy of trash talk, Jerry Springer.

When I heard that Cooper was hosting his own chat show, I envisioned it being akin to The View – fun, fluff topics, juxtaposed by some more serious far – after all, Cooper is  known for some of his “real news guy” stuff like his coverage of Hurricane Katrina.

But judging from an appearance by Sarah Burge, a self-annointed “Human Barbie” who completely transformed her looks through plastic surgery. She’s become infamous for giving her daughter 8-year old daughter Botox and a voucher for plastic surgery, as well as, letting her take pole-dancing classes. Obviously this woman is not well, and we can only pray for Burge’s daughter that she grows up into a well-adjusted woman who will someday become a productive member of society (good luck).

But what’s gross was Cooper’s obvious distaste for Burge. During the interview, Burge blithely defended her parenting choices and Cooper found her “dreadful” and discontinued the interview. Later he admitted regret over booking Burge. But he did book her – or at least his producers did.

And why? Because it’s shocking and disturbing (as well as entertaining to some) to see a woman completely done over through multiple surgeries; it’s also entertaining to many to hear about monumentally crappy parents because it makes us feel better about our parenting choices. I can just imagine absentee parents muse, “Well, I never see my daughter anymore, but at least I’m not like her.” Maybe Cooper had a dose of awareness during the interview, but I suspect that Cooper was trying to build up cred.

This story reminded me of a BBC sitcom, The Life and Times of Vivien Vyle. A brutal show starring Absolutely Fabulous star and scribe, Jennifer Saunders. The title character is a trash talk show host who created a persona of the caring, but strict, disciplinarian who berates her guests for making poor choices in their lives. In reality, Vivien loved that there were sick or dysfunctional individuals out there, because they provided constant fodder for her show.

I don’t know if Cooper’s secretly thrilled that Burge was reaching all kinds of levels of offensive crazy when talking about her 8-year old dancing on a pole. But one thing I do know is that he’s definitely stepping off the lofty mantle of “serious journalist.”

On his “real news guy” show Anderson Cooper 360  he includes a segment he calls “Ridiculist.” Sort of like Keith Olbermann’s “Worst Person of the Week” only infinitely stupider, Cooper goes over some kind of goofy story – though lately he’s been getting a case of the giggles. When French actor Gerard Depardieu urinated in a plane, Cooper read copy full of bathroom puns, and dissolved into girlish giggles. He repeated this when “reporting” on a story about a goofy and obscure Polish holiday where folks spray water on each other and women swat men with pussy willow branches.

Whenever a news personality moves over to television talk show territory, there’s a risk of losing credibility. Barbara Walters is a prime example, though she didn’t have to cross over to The View to jump the journalistic shark. It happened when she abandoned her penchant of interviewing world leaders, to interrogate movie stars about their love lives in swaths of soft-focus. The View seemed like a natural progression forward for Walters. It’ll be interesting to see what happens when Katie Couric launches her chat show.

To be fair, Anderson isn’t all bad. While not “changing TV good” he does have some fluff topics that are okay – you know the sort of thing that sells in daytime: diet tips, housekeeping ideas, celebrity appearances, etc. He could still become the new Oprah and maybe that’s his intent – remember, before she recast herself as the New Age, feel-good goddess, Oprah Winfrey also stooped down to tabloid territory.

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